Otloh of St. Emmeram

Otloh of St Emmeram (also Othlo) (c. 1010 c. 1072) was a Benedictine monk of St Emmeram's in Regensburg, known as a scholar and educator.


Otloh was born around 1010 in the bishopric of Freising. After studying at Tegernsee and Hersfeld, he was called to Würzburg by Bishop Meinhard (due, Otloh tells us in his Book of Visions, to his skill as a scribe). Otloh served as a secular cleric in the diocese of Freising before pursuing a monastic career against the wishes of his father; he eventually took monastic vows in 1032 at St. Emmeram's, Regensburg. Appointed dean in 1055, he also was magister scholae (head of the monastic school), and numbered among his students the reforming abbot William of Hirsau (†1091). Otloh was among the authors who elaborated the story of the transfer of the relics of Saint Denis the Areopagite to Regensburg, and long was believed to have forged letters of exemption for his monastery, a charge which recently has begun to be reconsidered.[1] Conflicts with his abbot and bishop led Otloh to leave St. Emmeram's in 1062 for Fulda, where he remained until 1067. After a short stay at the Franconian monastery of Amorbach, he returned to Regensburg and spent the rest of his days on literary work, most notably a quasi-autobiographical account of the temptations he had overcome during his life (the Liber de tentationibus suis) and a collection of visionary tales, including his own (the Liber visionum).

Otloh appears to have been the music theory teacher of Wilhelm of Hirsau and is cited in his treatise "De musica," but no treatise on music by Otloh is extant. Several liturgical chants in manuscripts from St. Emmeram are in his hand, some of which he probably composed, including the sequence for St. Dionysius "Exultemus in ista fratres," a proper office for St. Dionysius, and the troped Kyrie "O pater immense."[2]


Otloh's works are collected in volume 146 of Migne, Patrologia Latina, columns 27-434, including:

Dialogus de suis tentationibus, varia fortuna et scriptis
Life of Saint Wolfgang of Regensburg
Life of Saint Boniface
Life of Saint Alto
Life of Saint Magnus
Dialogus de tribus quæstionibus
De promissionis bonorum et malorum causis
De cursu spirituali
De translatione s. Dionysii e Francia in Germaniam (fragmentary)
De miraculo quod nuper accidit cuidam laico
De admonitione clericorum et laicorum
De spirituali doctrina
Liber Proverbiorum
Sermo in natali apostolorum
Liber visionum tum suarum tum aliorum

Modern critical editions

English translations

An excerpt of the Liber de tentationibus is translated in Other Middle Ages: Witnesses at the Margins of Medieval Society, ed. Michael Goodich (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 159-63. A complete translation of the Liber de tentationibus and Liber visionum currently is in preparation for Broadview Press's "Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures" series.

Critical studies


  1. On the Translatio sancti Dionysii, see most recently Schmid, "'Auf glühendem Thron in der Hölle'." Otloh's role in the forgeries was asserted by Johannes Lechner, "Zu den falschen Exemtionsprivilegien für St. Emmeram (Regensburg)," Neues Archiv 25 (1900): 627-35; see more recently, however, Philipp-Schauwecker, "Otloh und die St. Emmeramer Fälschungen des 11. Jahrhunderts".
  2. David Hiley. "Otloh of St Emmeram". In L. Root, Deane. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
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